Home Small Group Leaders Articles for Small Group Leaders Are You a Culture-Shaping Leader? 4 Questions to Find Out

Are You a Culture-Shaping Leader? 4 Questions to Find Out

3. Do You Hold People Accountable?

Nehemiah didn’t stop by confronting the leaders of his day and insisting on a new standard of behavior. Verse 12-13 records the response of the leaders as well as Nehemiah’s symbolic action of accountability:

They replied, “We will give back everything and demand nothing more from the people. We will do as you say.” Then I called the priests and made the nobles and officials swear to do what they had promised. I shook out the folds of my robe and said, “If you fail to keep your promise, may God shake you like this from your homes and from your property!” The whole assembly responded, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

The act of shaking out the folds of a robe was a symbolic act that meant if a person disobeys they will live under a curse from God. It was a measure of accountability coupled with consequence. Culture-shaping leaders understand the importance of holding people accountable to do what they say they will do. Without accountability, problems get bigger and culture perpetuates dysfunction.

4. Do You Model the Way?

The final verses of the fifth chapter of Nehemiah set the tone for Nehemiah’s leadership. He understood that culture-shaping begins with a leader’s personal behavior.

“For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way. I also devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my servants to spend time working on the wall. I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! The provisions I paid for each day included one ox, six choice sheep or goats, and a large number of poultry. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor’s food allowance because the people already carried a heavy burden. Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.” (Nehemiah 5:14-19)

Get the picture. Nehemiah becomes the governor of Judah for twelve years. Under Persian law, Nehemiah had the right to receive taxes from the people. These taxes would be used to operate his household, hire servants, and supply his salary. This was how the former governors who preceded Nehemiah became wealthy.

But Nehemiah wasn’t like the former governors. Even though it was legal and politically acceptable, Nehemiah refused to place economic strain on the people he was leading. Instead, he paid for food and expenses out of his own pocket. He modeled the way. Why? Verse 15 says, “Because I feared God…” This is the second time Nehemiah speaks about the fear of God.

Culture-shaping leaders model the way by pursuing integrity over incentives and responsibility over rights. When you receive a promotion in position, greater authority, or wider influence, how do you use it? Do you use your position and power to get your way? Do you use your authority to make life harder for others? Do you demand people to do what you say because you’re the one in charge?

Culture values a “title” as the highest form of leadership. But the truth is, a “title” is the lowest form of leadership. The only thing a title does is buy you a little time to prove what kind of leader you really are. You can gain influence through a title, expertise, or relationships, but culture-shaping leaders build influence by who they are…their character and integrity.

When you model the way with integrity, people follow you because they want to not because they have to. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Culture-shaping leaders don’t put their “rights” above what is “right.” Integrity guides them.

What do culture-shaping leaders do? They use their influence to wisely confront injustice and raise a new standard. They hold others accountable and model the way with integrity. Driving their efforts is the fear of God…a deep devotion to Christ that produces a compassion toward others.